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Emily's observations on birth as adventure

May 12, 2019

Our client, Emily Elert, shares her unique insights about the experience of birthing. Emily is a recent transplant to the Bay Area and Wendy supported her beautiful, physiological birth at Kaiser San Jose. Emily is a video producer and, as you will see, an adventurer.

My first real adventure in life happened during college; I went caving with some friends in South Africa, and the map we brought with us fell into a chasm somewhere deep underground. For many hours after that we were lost, groping our way down one tunnel, choosing between right and left, and groping our way down the next. When we finally spotted a blue-ish shade of black above our heads and climbed out under the night sky, I felt profoundly alive and enormously grateful for the bright stars and the breeze and the rocky mountainside.  

 

In the years since, I have never told the caving story and gotten the response I expected or hoped for. People say, “wow, that sounds scary,” or, “I feel claustrophobic just thinking about that,” or, “that’s why I never go caving.” I am somehow not able to communicate the vivid, life-affirming nature of the whole experience.  

 

And I feel the same way about birth. Even an “easy” birth, like the one I had with my second child, had moments that felt downright harrowing, and those moments are hard to talk about; when you tell someone, “and then I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this; I am going to die,’” they aren’t going say, “wow, what an adventure!,” or “I’d sure like to give birth right now,” even if, at the end of your birth story, you held a healthy baby in your arms and felt profoundly alive and enormously grateful for her warm, slippery body and her primal wail and her bright eyes.

 

Birth, I guess, is an adventure, with all its attendant challenge and reward. And so, in a different way, is everything that follows. It’s been six weeks since the birth of my second daughter, and so far it’s been all crisis and bliss – in one moment my toddler is gently holding a pacifier to the infant’s lips; in the next that same toddler is leaning menacingly on the baby’s chest. My husband and I meet briefly to hatch plans for the immediate future – you calm this one down, and I’ll feed this one; you clean this poopy mess and I’ll clean that one – and then go urgently to our tasks, like highly domestic triage workers. We are groping our way through the cave, and most of the time we are lost, but the moments of found-ness are inexpressibly wonderful.

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